A Romanian crime gang set up camp and cycled to jewellers across the country armed with sledgehammers and set cars alight to block police in a string of burglaries where they stole more than £3 million worth of property.
Six men were jailed for 47 years today for offences, including a £644,900 raid on a store in Milton Keynes, committed between November 2015 and September 2016.
Watches, rings and necklaces were stolen in a series of 11 raids, including at Bluewater shopping centre in Kent and Bicester Village in Oxford, described as 'meticulously planned' by the detective running the investigation.
Sledgehammers were used to gain entry to shops and fires were set to hamper the efforts of emergency services.
Detective Chief Inspector Ricky Fields said the group could be linked to the notorious Romanian Crime Academy as several of the members came from the same region of the country and employed similar strategies.
The Romanian Crime Academy recruits men and provides a strict code for its members as well as training in numerous techniques, such as avoiding being followed as well as understanding forensic evidence.
He said: 'They employed a number of strategies including cycling to the scenes of their crimes and cordoning off sections of road to reduce traffic and observers.
'They also pitched tents, typically two to three miles from the scene of the crime and buried their waste in a bid to avoid DNA being gathered.'
Six men were jailed for 47 years today for offences, including a £644,900 raid on a store in Milton Keynes, committed between November 2015 and September 2016. Pictured, Vasile Cardos (left) and Andrei Tifui
Bogdan Costel Neagu, 24, was given eight years and two months, Ioan Bucuresteanu, 24, received eight years and Vasile Daniel Cardos, 26, was sentenced to eight years and two months.
Silvu Ioan Acatrinei, 20, was sentenced to eight years two months, Andrei Florin Tifui, 28, was given eight years and two months and Ioachim Karp, 19, was given six years six months for aggravated burglary and conspiracy.
DCI Fields became involved in the investigation after a branch of Beaverbrooks was raided in the early hours of 10 March, 2016 in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent.
A total of £400,000 worth of watches were stolen during the break-in.
Watches, rings and necklaces were stolen in a series of 11 raids. Pictured, Bogdan Costel Neagu (left) and Ioachim Karp
'We're dealing with a group of individuals who are extremely organised and forensically aware,' he said.
He added: 'This was a highly organised Romanian crime group who, thanks to great partnership working between all forces, we were able to bring to justice.
'I hope the sentences handed out today send out a strong message - Staffordshire Police, along with other forces, will not tolerate such crime in our communities and we will take positive action against those involved.'
DC Nathan Fish, of Lancashire Constabulary's CID, said: 'This ruthless and highly-organised group went on a country-wide crime spree which included a burglary at The Mall in Blackburn.
Offenders drove a Ford Mondeo into the Bluewater shopping centre (pictured), parked up and set the car alight during one raid
During this particular incident the men caused significant damage to the shopping centre by smashing their way in with sledgehammers and setting a fire, before making off with a large amount of high value jewellery.'
DS Claudia Musson, from Derbyshire Constabulary, said: 'The organisation and professionalism shown by this group of criminals cannot be underestimated.
'The sentences handed down today should serve as a clear message that this criminality will not be tolerated.
A further man is due to be sentenced on March 28.
The men were sentenced at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court (pictured) for the offences